Racy tale of a man afflicted by clouds


Sean Hughes is a comedian. He is also the author of It's What He Would Have Wanted, which, the blurb will tell you, is "a novel about secrets, suicide and bad weather". But it is not, I must advise, a suitable gift for Granny on her birthday. For Weather Eye readers, the interest of the book lies in the last ingredient above. Granny's problem, on the other hand, would be with certain practices indulged in frequently, and described in graphic detail, by the narrator.

He would have benefited, one cannot help but think, from the advice dispensed by Hamlet to the players: "For in the very torrent, tempest and, as I may say, whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness." But skip the fellatio ad absurdum, , and the tale is very readable.

Shea, the chief protagonist, has a daddy who had "got a first in meteorology, and had seemed destined to work at the cutting edge of his field, but sadly morphed into Terry, the BBC weatherman." According to Shea, "Dad had always warned us about ozone depletion with its increased ultraviolet radiation, and he used to laugh at the many surprises the atmosphere was going to shoot down at us." But then, disaster! Daddy hangs himself and, naturally enough, our hero wonders why. His only clues to Terry's terminal troubles are gleaned from a diary, in which the clever weatherman has formed the habit of coding all his friends and enemies as elements. "It became clear that there were five people who had a big effect on Dad's secret life: the Sun, the Rain, the Clouds, the Wind, and El Nino." Shea identifies the Sun immediately as Daddy's girlfriend, and also deduces that "the Wind and the Rain were somehow linked, as they cropped up together a lot and gave the impression they might have gone away together. The Clouds were baffling and had by far the most entries . . . I knew they held the key to my Dad's state of mind."

And, sure enough, the quotes from Daddy's diary are indicative of severe meteorological depression: "The clouds are out to get me. Following my every move." And again: "A cloudy day, full of regret but now unavoidable. I am waiting for them to offload their heavy burden. I worry that it will saturate me. I sit here praying for clear skies." And thus the meteorological action continues to an enjoyable, albeit slightly implausible, denouement - not exactly a la Proust, but a good yarn to read when Granny's gone to bed.